Located south of Mexico and east of Guatemala, Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America where Spanish is the norm.
In 1862, Belize was colonized by the English who named British Honduras. The country eventually gained independence in 1981.
The capital: Belmopan, formerly Belize City.
Regularly swept by storms and cyclones, Belize City was destroyed, and the capital was rebuilt inland, protected from the devastating weather.
On the east coast, the country opens to the Caribbean Sea with coral reefs and hundreds of small islands including atolls. On the west coast, the country shares a jungle border with Guatemala, dotted with ancient Mayan sites.
Three reasons to visit Belize: The sea, the jungle and Mayan archaeological sites. Also, a flight from Seattle to Belize takes less than 5 hours!
The sea: beaches, scuba diving, and snorkeling along the coast or islands (called the Cayes).
The temperature is ideal from November to June, when a warm wind blows on the beaches protected by the coral reef. Here the sea is always calm, and the water is very warm. Don’t forget to protect yourself from the sun!
Dive clubs allow you to discover the seafloor full of fish including nurse sharks, moray eels, lobsters, and barracudas.
Divers: Do not miss the mythical Blue Hole, more than 400 feet at the deepest point and an almost perfect 1000 feet circle. As you dive you can see stalagmites and stalactites in the heart of the atoll (2h 30 from San Pedro or 1h 30 from Hopkins).
The jungle lies in center of the west coast of the country and includes colorful fauna.
The rainforest is traversed by scenic roads and is inhabited by birds, crocodiles, jaguars, snakes and howler monkeys that sway from one tree to another.
If you regret not having seen toucans, hummingbirds or jaguars, you can visit the zoo located in the jungle. While the animals are confined to their enclosures, they continue to live in their natural environment.
The Mayan ruins of Belize and Guatemala.
80 Mayan archaeological sites which include the best known: The City of Caracol, Lamanai, Altun Ha or Tikal.
Long before the arrival of Europeans, the ancient Mayan civilization stretched from what is now Mexico to El Salvador. For reasons that are fully understood, the Mayan civilization began to collapse around 900 AD.
For more than 2000 years, the abundant sunshine, fertile soils, and rich offshore reef fisheries allowed the Mayan civilization to thrive in what is now Belize. Xunantunich, Caracol, Altun, and Lamanai are the most famous sites. The cities were built to strengthen alliances and were at the forefront of wars against other city-states like Tikal, Guatemala (to be covered!)
After the collapse of the Mayan empire, these sites were swallowed by the jungle and forgotten for hundreds of years until their rediscovery in the late nineteenth century. Archaeologists have done a heroic job excavating these important sites, and we know there is still more to be discovered. In 2016, an excavation at Xunantunich revealed the largest Mayan royal tomb ever discovered.
Today, the living descendants of the ancient Mayans are an important part of Belizean life, keeping their language, music, food and customs.